Raiders ready for national spotlight against Redskins
LANDOVER, Md. — The Oakland Raiders are rolling. Now they will try to improve to 3-0 in front of a national television audience.
After scoring a league-high 71 points in wins over the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets, Oakland travels to face the Washington Redskins in the Week 3 Sunday night game.
Washington, after losing to the Eagles at home in Week 1, calmed nerves in the nation’s capital a bit when they went out to the West Coast and defeated the Los Angeles Rams.
The Redskins, usually pass heavy under coach Jay Gruden, rushed for 229 yards in the 27-20 victory, with three backs rushing for at least 67 yards (Rob Kelley, 78; Chris Thompson, 77; and Samaje Perine, 67). Thompson scored twice, including a 61-yard run, and has three touchdowns (one receiving) in two games.
Kelley left with a rib cartilage injury and was limited in practice Wednesday. Gruden is reluctant to give too many carries to the 5-8 Thompson, so rookie Perine may get a lot of work Sunday night, with Thompson remaining in his third-down role.
“Good player. You can hand it to him, you can toss it to him, you could throw him the football out of the backfield. He’s been good,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said of Thompson.
“In fact, all three backs have been productive for them behind that line. The line is doing a nice job blocking — good design. They’ve done a nice job. They’ve run the ball as well as anybody in the league to start the year.”
Washington’s passing game is still not in synch. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was average (18 of 27 for 179 yards and one touchdown) Sunday, but he was 3 for 3 on what proved to be the game-winning drive, including a 23-yard completion to Terrelle Pryor and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Grant.
“Got off rhythm a couple times, but I liked the way he finished,” Gruden said of Cousins. “That’s the important thing. Getting a win on the road is not easy, anywhere, anytime. And making the key throws down the stretch, going 3 for 3 on that last drive was critical.”
The Raiders have also been running well behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. Through two games, the Raiders’ starters up front have been called for only two penalties.
Against the Jets, Oakland rushed for 180 yards and Derek Carr was 23 of 28 for 230 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and was not sacked.
“It’s still early,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “You’ve got to sustain it. It ain’t about doing it in the beginning. You’ve got to go 16 weeks with it. Hopefully we are going 17, 18, 19 weeks with it.”
Carr ranks third in the league with a 126.5 passer rating (Cousins is 22nd at 82.9), and the Raiders have zero turnovers in two games.
Oakland’s offense is ranked fourth, averaging 384.5 yards after two games, while Washington is 14th, gaining 324.5 yards per outing.
After gaining 76 yards in the opener, running back Marshawn Lynch finished with 12 carries for 45 yards versus the Jets.
“He really looks rusty, I’ll tell you,” Gruden joked Wednesday. “No, he’s fun to watch. You don’t like to say that about other people, but it’s actually fun and terrifying to watch him at the same time.”
Neither defense is in the top half, but Oakland is 18th (310.5 yards per game) and Washington is 27th (344).
“They’re a good team. That, I think, breeds confidence. Success creates more success,” Cousins said of the Raiders’ defense. “(Defensive end) Khalil Mack is as good as they come in the NFL and (linebacker) Bruce Irvin I’ve played against when he was in Seattle and he’s a very active player, both in the pass game and in the run game. Very athletic in space. Obviously we know (former Redskin cornerback) David Amerson and the player that he’s become.”
The Redskins’ defense is still struggling on third down, allowing a 50 percent conversion rate.
Oakland punter Marquette King is averaging 54 yards (51.3 net) on six kicks.
Kelley is not the only banged up Redskin. Tight end Jordan Reed (rib/sternum) did not practice. Limited were safety Deshazor Everett (knee), cornerback Mason Foster (shoulder), tackle Morgan Moses (ankle/shoulder), safety Montae Nelson (shoulder) and cornerback Josh Norman (hamstring).
The team may activate safety Fish Smithson.
And the team now knows safety Su’a Cravens won’t be coming back. The 22-year-old was placed on the NFL’s reserve/left squad list this week, meaning he cannot return this season as he contemplates retiring.